Thought you knew PR?

As part of my Digital Media module I am required to write an evaluation of how the field of public relations is adapting to the digital media landscape

After reading Bekki’s take on PR’s adaption to the current digital media landscape – I thought I’d jump in and give my own view on the subject.

It’s no secret that these days everything is digital, sooner or later even the pen and paper will be obsolete, and PR is no stranger to this new development. It comes as no surprise then, that the field of Public Relations is evolving in time with this newly digital landscape and being pulled it from it’s more traditional roots.  I mean, it would be stupid not to follow this development. With over 3.4 billion internet users with a growth of 10% in the last year, this growth is seeing no chance of slowing down and organisations need to take advantage of this and we, as PR practitioners need to understand the potential such a widely spread and diverse platform holds.

When I first came to the idea of studying PR, understanding what the industry was all about and what I’d be doing in my future, the press release was the holy grail. It was all about writing content; emailing journo’s and next day searching for the hopeful coverage you’d secured. Of course, this all still happens today, but what we understand to be the driving force of publicity and press is clearly online media. It doesn’t take a professional to realise that tweets are covered more than normal stories and hashtags enable more engagement than anything else. The nature of conversation has changed and it’s no longer two-way; its every-which-way and brands need to understand that idea’s are being formulated, opinions created and that their consumer’s peers are the people they’re listening to.

These day’s, its all about creating relevant and multi-platform content that reaches everyone; taking advantage of the drivers that social media give us such as Twitter hashtags and Snapchat GeoFilters. Practitioners have realised that it’s not so simple any more, and are creating content that can be shared and ensuring that they have a digital media strategy that’s sound inside and out; sleep is for the weak due to digital and your coverage could be posted at any time on multiple sources.

That’s what’s exciting to me about this new adaption and shift in the norm – there are countless opportunities out there and it’s all about creativity. Take Calvin Klein for example: their newest #mycalvins campaign has utilised current social media to its ultimate effect.Using both Twitter and Instagram, they’ve pushed for user engagement by not only using a hashtag for discussion, but for consumers to share their own images and push the campaign further.  A campaign like #mycalvins wouldn’t have worked as well in traditional print, due to the issue with shareability. They’ve also shown their creative side and proven that they understand what makes content go viral – their newest release of images are more on the ‘controversial’ side (just like their old days) which has made their campaign all the more accessible and shared.

Public Relations adaption to the digital landscape has also placed emphasis on the importance of endorsement and support from celebrities and other influentials. Consumers these days are influenced from many touch points and the increasing use of social media makes it clear how a consumer builds an opinion of a brand. Going back to CK, they understand this new way of reaching out to audiences and with the #mycalvins campaign, have used influentials such as Kendall Jenner (one of the most popular names in fashion right now) as a brand ambassador.

The question on my lips right now though, is whether this opportunity for creativity and the need to create content that gets people talking, has PR shot itself in the foot? Creating such risky content always has a drawback, and now due to the ease of communication and the sharing of opinion, it’s all too easy for the negative’s to become just as prominent as the positives. An example of this would be SeaWorld’s use of twitter to create conversation – however it didn’t quite pan out as they expected. Their #askseaworld hashtag didn’t work out too well and lead to a tonne of backlash and negative tweets about their captivity practices.

In order to fully utilise what Digital Media has to offer in this changing digital world, PR practitioners first off need to ensure they understand their consumers and are aware of what messages they are spreading with creative campaigns. It’s clear though, the importance of digital media and strategy in new age PR – so are we about to lose old PR?

Although it’s clear that PR is going to have to keep on adapting in order to keep up with this constantly rolling wave of new practices, practitioners need to get in on this and realise they better get changing; but we can’t deny that old practices still hold a bit of power. PR isn’t dead and we won’t be expecting a funeral any time soon – after all, we’re still focused on relationships with the public and engagement. PR’s just gotta make sure it stays ahead of the race.

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